Cycling Baja is where my Mexican trip really began. I cycled past large Cardón Cactus and not much else on a quiet road with not a sound to be heard but the wind, not just any wind, a tailwind, the cyclists friend. I had a smile on my face. I’m not sure if it was from the joy I felt at being in the middle of the desert in Baja or the beer I had been given only 30 minutes earlier by some passing travelers. Maybe a combination of both. This was Mexico, this was what I was seeking, it took me 6 days to find it. So far, so good Mexico.
Six days earlier my bike was just big enough to fit into Mexico. A friendly lady assisted me by rotating the turnstile as I pushed my bicycle through. I was now in Mexico. The immigration process was quick, simple and friendly. $20.70US bought me the right to stay in Mexico for 6 months.
I exited into the real world that was Tijuana, Mexico and promptly found myself going in circles. Garmin GPS maps, sometimes you frustrate me. I just couldn’t seem to find the road out of town. Third time lucky and I was on my way to Rosario, only a short 20km or so to the south. The main highway 1 was busy with a lane not quite big enough for myself on my bicycle and a car or truck beside me.
It was all that I had been warned about but the drivers were not aggressive nor did any of them come too close to me. I cycle with a rear view mirror for just such an occasion. I was glad to have it. It was not long before I was showered and refreshed in the resort town of Rosario.
The following day saw a short ride to another resort town of Ensanada. The famed Baja 1000 off road race has left its mark on this town with countless stickers of race teams and sponsors adorning cafes and restaurants both large and small. I took a rest day.
It is hot in Baja
The last several days had been remarkably hot, even by my standards. Drinking more than a litre per hour was not enough and my body was weak. I was sweating so much I could take my shirt off and ring out the sweat. Rest, food and fluid should temporarily fix the situation. My first days in Mexico were punctuated by tourist everything. From the prices to English menus. This was not Mexico. I could not even find a Mexican owned beer company, what you think is Mexican is not!
For the next couple of days the shoulder of the road would appear and disappear as I rode south through desolation, farmlands and towns. The roadside was like a rubbish tip. Bottles, plastic bags and everything inbetween. So far, Baja had been very underwelming.
Finding a place to camp made me a little anxious. I’m yet to understand enough about Mexico to know if its OK to camp anywhere or not. I suspect its OK to camp anywhere, if people are around then I’ll ask for permission.
My first night camping in Mexico I sneak off into a farmers field out of sight of the road. If the farmer comes along I’ll graciously ask permission, but until that time I’m stealth camping. The following night I spy a nice spot near the coast and push my bike to a spot out of sight from the road. I was able to enjoy the sound of the waves from the Pacific Ocean as they broke within sight of my tent.
There is a spot on the Baja map that seemed to have little in the way of towns. The last town of any significance was El Rosario. I lingered in the town at one of the restaurants. I considered staying the night to do a little research into what might lay ahead. I’d already cycled around 400km since San Diego, a rest could do me well but I chose adventure instead.
I set of after lunch on a long 40km or so uphill ride to the central Baja plateau. A sign advised of 318km until the next fuel stop. It wasn’t quite accurate but I didn’t need fuel. I had little idea when or where I’d find water so I carried about 12 litres with me. As it turned out I needed only a fraction of that amount as there were many places to get water along the way. I think 50km was about the longest stretch without some form of cafe, shop or restaurant to get water.
This is getting better
This is where my Mexican trip really began. It was getting late in the day when I arrived at the small village of Guayaquil. It was a small cafe, that was all. I parked my bike out the front of the store and entered. I ordered a meal and a beer, then another beer. Ibrahim, the owners son spoke with me at length before making the night drive back to his home in USA.
After dinner I asked to camp nearby. It was now dark. I set up my tent out the back of the cafe behind some decaying vehicles. A combination of the wind and a couple of beers made erecting the tent a slow process. The over protective puppy didn’t help much. A well aimed rock saw no more trouble for the rest of the night.
Considering I slept next to the highway at a 24 hour cafe that had truckers coming and going all night, I slept remarkably well. The puppy was the first to greet me with a wag of the tail and apologetic puppy eyes. All was forgiven on both sides for last nights misunderstanding. Coffee, stale bread with jam, scrambled eggs with ham. ’50 pesos’, said the lovely lady with a smile.
The remote Baja desert was my only companion for several days as I crossed this ‘no mans land’. For the most part I had a favourable wind and I covered the distances each day rather easily. As a result I lingered in camp most evenings and mornings, reading and writing. I was surprised there were no other cyclists around. I hadn’t seen a touring cyclist since Malibu, north of LA, weeks ago. Are cyclist avoiding Mexico? How many are cycling from Alaska to Argentina? Anyone? Am I alone out here?
A passing motorist told me of a lone cyclist many behind me, but was unable to tell me how far. 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week. I met that cyclist as I cycled into my first town Guerrero Negro. A Japanese cyclist, named Kensato on his first adventure cycling trip, on route from California to La Paz, about 700km further south. As we reached town we both disappeared. I to the cheapest hotel I could find. My body was tired, I needed rest.
As I continue my cycling journey that will eventually see me ride from Alaska to Argentina I note that my at times unconventional route has seen me diverge from the traditional Pan American route. The result has been my inability to meet many other like minded cyclists. By my estimations there are about 100 adventurous cyclists each year that start a journey that covers the whole length of the Americas. Since commencing in Alaska last year I’ve met maybe 10-15 cyclists heading both north bound and south bound. That’s not many. I would love nothing better than to meet another adventurous cyclist but where are they? Where are all the ‘road legends’ the ‘bicycle nomads’ that I crave to hang around?
There are 31 states in Mexico. I just cycled through Baja California, Mexico. That leaves 30 more states to explore. I won’t be visiting all of them, but I should make a bit of an effort to see a lot of them. I’ve spent about 12 months of my life to date traveling in Spanish speaking countries. I am both surprised at how much Spanish language I remember and shocked at just how much I have forgotten. Practice, practice, practice.
Cycling Baja Stats
San Diego USA to Rosario Mexico = 45km
Rosario to Ensenada = 80km
Rest day Ensenada = 0km
Ensenada to Farmers field south of San Vincente = 94km
San Vincente to beach camp on Bahia Santa Maríe = 127km
Bahia Santa Maríe to Guayaquil = 102km
Guayaquil to rivercamp near Chepala = 112km
Chepala to Cactus camp south of Rosarito = 115km
Rosarito to Guerrera Negra = 59km
9 days 734km